The month of July was mostly vacation time for me. Now that the month is about to end, so are my free days until at least December. Fun time it was, first with my kids and grandkids at the welcoming beach of Longboat Key, Florida, then a little of this and a little of that with a friend at my Belleair Beach, Florida pad, also on the Gulf of Mexico, and a sojourn to Miami, the place I will always call my hometown, with great sunny days and good runs along the shore of the Atlantic in always inviting and ready to be discovered South Beach.
Now it is back to work, to wearing a suit and to connecting to the news.
Yes, I made it a point to stay away from the news as much as possible during my vacation.
Did I succeed? Well, almost. Let's say that it was 90% disconnect. That meant, not opening my iPad eagerly each morning and evening to read The New York Times, or El Pais, or TIME, The New Yorker, or The Huffington Post. Occasionally I glanced at CNN (but not for long), where the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine continued to dominate the news.
It's never a full disconnect in the digital age
Disconnect may be the wrong term here. I did check emails (had to, as several projects and contract negotiations were in full active mode).
I tried a similar news disconnect 14 years ago. It also was summer and I made it a point NOT to read the morning papers (in those days I had to walk to the newspaper box at the corner to get them while away at the beach). I was not hooked on CNN then, which facilitated things.
However, the biggest difference between disconnecting in 2000 and now is that I did not have a smartphone constantly welcoming pings and news alerts. In 2014, the news comes after you. It tempts you. It tries your disconnect-stamina with gusto. It wants you to surrender.
True, I could have left my iPhone behind, or not pack the iPad in my beach bag, along with the suntan lotion and the bag of almonds.. But let's not forget that my iPhone is also my camera, and I like to take pictures of my grandkids as they build sand castles, or get on a surf board. Or, how about videos of those Fourth of July fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico. Not to mention that if you are on the west coast of Florida, YOU must photograph those gorgeous sunsets. I confess that my iPhone and I are inseparable, and summer vacation was not an exception.
And so, while pings sounded in my beach bag often from News Digest, USA Today, NYTimes, Breaking News and other media outlets, I did glance at the headlines, but put my phone away pronto. It was an unusually busy month of July for news: the horror of the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 , the escalating war between Israel and Gaza, the crash of two other commercial airliners in Taiwan and Algiers, and the death of one of my favorite actors, James Garner. News alert headlines kept me informed, but not not on the edge of my seat.
Now, on my first day back from vacation, I am voraciously catching up with these stories and more. I am proud that I accomplished an almost-successful news black out for most of July. I recommend such a fast, especially for people in the media. While I often discuss the fact that there are two tempos for news, I now have sort of discovered that there is a third tempo: no news.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Absence of news clears the head and revitalizes that compartment in our brain that we use to process news and information.
I devoured the Sunday New York Times yesterday, with the hunger of someone stepping out of a fast.
Feels good to be back. When it comes to the news, it feels as if I never left.